After hearing yesterday’s Gospel, which included Jesus’ imperative to, Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able (Luke 13:24), I bumped into a correlation in the ever scary (for clergy) Matthew 23,
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in (v. 13).
The anti-Semite can avoid the warning with, Wow, those Rabbis were awful. Glad Jesus has US on his side! But as I said above, Matthew 23 should strike fear in “religious” people of any tradition, and clergy in particular.
The clergy, and by extension the institutions to which they belong, can be concertina wire across a narrow entrance that already inflicts agony.
How do we do this? Mainly by failing to strive for the door ourselves, by serving an earth bound institutional life and personal satisfactions instead of keeping our passion toward God’s kingdom.
This takes too many shapes to list here, but I imagine that you have no trouble listing some in your head. They’re not things unique to clergy, but the collusions with sin that all human beings practice. But when they corrupt clergy, there’s a terrible ripple effect into the people they reach, as Jesus goes on to warn,
For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you make him a proselyte, he becomes twice as much a child of hell as yourselves (Mt. 23:15)
Being among the retired clergy, I have painful episodes recounting failures and compromises of over 30 years of ordained ministry. For me, that’s part of the agonizing that goes into entering by the narrow door.
I was chatting with a clergy friend who is weighing retirement from parish work. This is someone who has had a vital and, IMO, kingdom-oriented ministry. S/he was bouncing between exhaustion with the wider church corruption that Jesus calls out and fear of losing identity without a congregation to lead.
What I replied without much thought (I think by a prompting from the Holy Spirit) was,
The finding of identity apart from a congregation is an opportunity. God gets a chance at some deferred maintenance on one that He loves.
Maybe the Lord gave that insight as a comfort to me as much as an insight for my friend.
Anyway, I need to get going. We are still dealing with a family medical situation. It’s progressing but we are not out of the woods. Thank you for the prayers and kindnesses expressed here and on other media platforms. God bless you – and keep you strong in your striving for the narrow door.
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